Grant Initiation & Project Planning

Steps to take before sending the check.


Significant updates are often made between when the application is submitted and when funding is provided. Updated project plans that mirror the original application and report questions along with informal updates from project managers are helpful ways to incorporate unanticipated changes to the project. This flexible project management approach also helps identify additional opportunities to support grantees and stay engaged with the project as it is implemented.

It is recommended to set up a First Project Meeting after the applicant has been notified that their project has been recommended for funding. By going through this extra step between being recommended for funding and receiving the funding, project leaders can ensure that any updates from the project team or from the funder are agreed upon and incorporated into the project plans before signing any paperwork.

This shows flexibility from the funder by being open to changes that strengthen the project and helps to ensure that the details are worked out as much as possible before the grantee receives the funding. While it is not the intention to take away the project’s funding during this step, it does also give the grantee the opportunity to decline the grant if things are not going as planned before any paperwork is signed or funding is disbursed.

Thinking Questions

  • Will a significant amount of time pass between when the application was submitted and when the funding will be received?
  • What information is needed for the grant paperwork that was not included in the application?
  • Is the program/grant fairly straightforward or are there nuances and that need to be discussed?
  • Are the grantees veterans to the process or fairly unknown by the funder?
  • Are you able to speed up the process by collecting information and signatures electronically?

Step-by-Step Process

Congratulations Message & Meeting Request

In the message notifying applicants that they have been recommended for funding also set up a First Project Meeting or call with the project leader to discuss next steps in the funding process. This will provide a chance for the program staff to go over any feedback or suggestions from the review process, confirm details such as the grant period and grantee, go over reporting requirements, and get updates on any changes with the project.

First Project Meeting

If there is specific language or logos that should be used by the grantee, the First Project Meeting is a good time to share them and ensure that they understand how to properly acknowledge the grant support. It is also a great time to discuss more public facing events where program staff can see the progress of the project in person and schedule promotion and/or professional documentation of the project.

First Project Meeting Sample Agenda

Status Updates: What is the current status of the project? Are there any updates to the project?

Grantee: Who will receive the grant? Does the project have a fiscal sponsor?

Management: Who will manage this project? Who is the lead project manager? Describe the project team.

Partnerships: What partnerships are already in place? What additional partnerships can be suggested?

Committee Feedback: Is there any specific feedback or are there suggestions from the program Advisory Committee for the project?

Funder Feedback: How is this project viewed by the funder, and what is the context or precedent? What are some of the funder’s goals for the project? Is there anything about the project that the funder would like to emphasize, or are there any stipulations/conditions?

Use of Funding: How will the funding recommended by the Advisory Committee be used? Discuss approved budget items, suggestions for prioritization. Set goal of finalizing project budget and use of funding.

Project Schedule: What is the project’s proposed timeline? Agree on report deadlines and conditions. Discuss site visit planning and timing.

Outcomes/Goals: What are the measurable objectives for the project? At a minimum, 5 goals are suggested as a starting point.

Next Steps for the Project Team: Begin working on an Updated Project Plan for the project including revised timeline, outcomes, budget, and use of funding. Identify the organization that will receive the grant money (the Grantee).

Next Steps for Staff: Based on the documents from the Project Team, the Funding Agreement (contract) for the grant will be created. Staff will seek approval of the grant, after which the Grantee will be awarded funds.

Updated Project Plan

Following the meeting or call, have the project leader provide an Updated Project Plan that includes any significant updates to the project in writing along with the information required for your organization to put together the grant paperwork, such as Tax ID numbers and additional points of contact for the grant. This paperwork can then be used to get final approval from the Board of Directors, if applicable, and also as an exhibit for the grant agreement, either supplementing or replacing the original application materials.

Formal Invitation to Request Support

Once the Scope of Work (Updated Project Plan) has been approved, the organization or individual receiving the grant will be formally invited by to request a specific amount for a specific purpose and submit all required Tax Forms. This request ensures that the grantee organization is willing to accept the grant based on the Updated Project Plan. This is an especially important step if the grantee organization’s leadership has not been involved in the application or project planning process, which is typical in large organizations or fiscally sponsored projects.

Board Authorization

Although the staff or a decisionmaking committee made funding recommendations, the grants will still need to be authorized by the funder’s board of directors.

Upon receiving a Letter of Request and tax paperwork from the grantee, the grant is ready to be authorized by the Board. Board authorizations typically take place on a regular basis, such as at the end of each month, but off-cycle authorizations can be done in special circumstances.

Once the grant has been authorized, program staff will send a formal congratulations email that notifies the grantees that a grant agreement is being sent.

Grant Agreement

The Grant Agreement is a contract for managing the Grantee-Organization (Project) relationship, and serves as a goal-setting tool that sets parameters for the project timeline and use of funds. Data collected to support due diligence when creating the Grant Agreement include required IRS tax information and/or fiscal sponsorship documentation, an approved project budget, and any details related to partnering organizations, project managers, and measurable project deliverables.


Methods We Love

:heart: In-person meetings with grantees. Meeting with grantees in advance of sending the final grant agreement helps to humanize the process. It also encourages discussion around feedback from the review process and any questions the grantee might have about the funding process. By meeting with grantees, they know that you are open to dialogue and will be more likely to share successes and struggles along the way.

:heart: Have grantees write their own outcome goals and measures. This may have been a part of the original application, but the grant initiation and project planning phase is the time to refine the project’s goals and how they will be measured to ensure that they align with the updates made to the project plan since the grantee originally applied. Have the grantee consider what is feasible with the agreed upon amount of funding and the time frame and then include these goals in the grant agreement so that they will be reported on throughout the project’s implementation.

Alternative Approaches

:bulb: Signing party. If you have a fast-paced program timeline, consider meeting with all of the project managers on the same afternoon. The projects can be divided up into smaller groups based on their target audiences. This allows them to rotate through stations to go over topics such as grant paperwork and logistics, how to make their project activities welcoming to everyone, communications/storytelling/documentation, etc.

:bulb: Create a video tutorial. If the grantmaking process is extremely consistent across programs, or there are more grantees than there is time to meet with, you can create a video tutorial as a way to answer commonly asked questions and go over the next steps in the funding process.

Cautionary Tales

:warning: Assuming that the information in the application is still accurate. A lot can change between when an application is submitted and actually implementing the project. Once it is confirmed that the project has been recommended for funding, ask if there are any updates to the budget, timeline, and implementation plan from the grantee so that the information associated with the grant agreement is as accurate as possible. If nothing has changed, then no additional work is required, but having the project manager confirm key details about the project prior to signing the agreement benefits everyone involved.

Templates & Downloads